Stress—dozens of things can trigger it. You’re getting ready to leave work for the weekend and your boss hands you a new project, due Monday. A co-worker sends you a terse email in response to a request for help. Your subordinate takes a two-hour lunch break and misses an important meeting. Just like that, you’re seeing red.
Before you fire off that angry, emotion-filled email, take a few breaths. Remember what you do in this moment will reflect your character to those around you. Do you really want to damage your reputation, for a brief second of blowing off steam?
To keep your cool in heated situations, try out a couple of these strategies from corporate leaders.
“Pause a moment and breathe. Take in some oxygen. You need to think clearly and rationally, and the more emotional you are the less clear and rational you are going to think,” says Michael Garty, Corporate Director of Leadership Development at Lippert Components.
Garty recommends pausing and re-evaluating the situation. Once you’ve got your emotions under control, you might realize that you’ve interpreted the interaction incorrectly. We often make these interactions personal, when they often aren’t.
“We tend to interpret through that lens and project our own baggage of thinking onto the sender. We are typically off a mark or two,” says Garty.
“If you're feeling a little worn out by work, consider putting a Post It note on your desk with the word 'Game' on it, so you can be reminded to keep this mindset all day long,” says Siimon Reynolds, the founder of a consulting group focused on mentoring CEOs.
Reynolds believes that there are two mindsets that people bring with them to work, the war mindset and the game mindset. Showing up to work every day prepared to battle your colleagues is totally unsustainable and can take a huge emotional toll. Instead, Reynolds wants you to approach work with a game mindset. Leaders with the game mindset still work hard, but see their work through a fun, more entertaining lens.
“Time and time again I have seen people who think this way both outperform the warriors and simultaneously be more relaxed and happier,” says Reynolds.
“Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help when needed, and offer to assist them in return,” says entrepreneur Faisal Hoque.
When you feel like you’ve been given more than you can handle at work, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Whether you’re delegating tasks to your subordinates or building up a team of specialists for a more long-term project, you’re helping to relieve the pressure. This will ultimately improve your inter-office relationships.
“There is comfort in not being alone in times of stress,” says Hoque.